To Ref or Not To Ref?
A Quick Fruit & Vegetable Storage Guide
Not all fruits & vegetables belong to the fridge. Read on and save that precious fridge space for those fruits/veggies that really need it. Plus, some tips to prolong the life of your produce.
- First things first - The crucial step to fruit/veggie storage is to pick the freshest produce from your local grocery or market. Be on the lookout for vegetables with yellowing or limp leaves as well as fruits that have become unusually soft to touch (such as in the case of mangoes). Starting fresh is the first step in ensuring longer shelf life for your fruits/veggies once you take them home. If you are buying your produce online (hello Covid!), be friends with the seller/s and instruct them to pick only the freshest bunch for you.
- Sort them out - Know which fruits/veggies to refrigerate and which ones can stay on your tabletops, produce drawers (if you have one) or any other suitable place in your kitchen/pantry. Garlic, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, lemons and butternut squash need not be refrigerated. On the other hand, zucchini, beets, carrots, radishes, cabbage , celery, broccoli, lettuce and other leafy greens may be stored in your ref. In the case of bananas, mangoes, apples and pears – you may leave it out of the fridge when unripe. Once they are in your desired ripeness, you can move them inside the fridge.
- Know which veggies/fruits cannot hang with each other. There is such a thing as ethylene-producing and ethylene-sensitive fruits/veggies. Ethylene gas is naturally produced by some fruits/veggies like bananas, apples and onions. This gas hastens the ripening (and eventually spoilage) of ethylene-sensitive produce like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and other leafy greens. Thus, whether storing your produce in or outside the ref, make sure not to store ethylene producing fruits/veggies with each other as well as with the ethylene-sensitive ones.
- Non-ref storage. Take note of the recommended spots to store your non-ref required fruits/veggies. For example, potatoes and sweet potatoes must be stored in a cool, dark place with high humidity and good air circulation. On the other hand, onions and garlic need a cool and dark place with good air circulation as well, but with low humidity. In any case, store the non-ref required produce away from heat-generating appliances such as the (outer) side of your ref or on top of your microwave oven.
- Ref-storage. Some references say that fruits/veggies meant for the ref are best placed there unwashed (and just wash immediately prior to consuming them). This is so because excess moisture can cause the produce to go bad quicker than usual. If you are uncomfortable storing unwashed produce in your ref, you may wash them but be sure to dry thoroughly. When storing fruits/veggies in the ref, it is best to use sealed hard containers or reusable zip-lock silicone bags, per type of fruit/veggie to prolong its freshness - as the containers help to hold in moisture and prevent the produce to hang together with ethylene-producing & ethylene-sensitive fruits/veggies.
Other opinions on the subject matter may vary. The guide is merely a guide, based on the references mentioned above.